In the last years, so-called “cloud services” have become more and more interesting and some customers are already thinking of going 100% cloud. There are a lot of competing cloud products out there, but is there a universal description of a cloud service? This is what I will address here.
Let’s start with the basics. Since time began (by that I mean “IT history”) we have all been running our own servers in our own datacenters with our own IT employees. A result of this was that you had different servers for your company, all configured individually, and your IT guys had to deal with that high number of servers. This led to a heavy and increasing load on the IT administrators, no time for new services, often they even had no time to update the existing ones to mitigate the risk to be hacked. In parallel, the development teams and management expect IT to behave in an agile fashion which was impossible for them.
Defining Cloud Services
This is not a sustainable model and is where the cloud comes in. A cloud is a highly optimized standard service (out of the box) without any small changes in the configuration. Cloud Services provide a way to just use a service (compared to power from the power plug) with a predefined and guaranteed SLA (service level agreement). If the SLA breaks, you as the customer would even get money back. The issue with these services is that these servers need to run in a highly standardized setup, in highly standardized datacenters, which are geo-redundant around the world. When it comes to Azure, these datacenters are being run in so-called “regions” with a minimum of three datacenters per region.
In addition to this, Microsoft runs their own backbone (not the internet) to provide a high quality of services. Let’s say available bandwidth meets Quality of Services (QoS).
To say it in one sentence, a cloud service is a highly standardized IT service with guaranteed SLAs running in public datacenters available from everywhere around the world at high quality. In general, from the financial point of view, you pay it per user, services or other flexible unit and you could increase or decrease it, based on your current needs.
Cloud Services – your options
If you want to invest in cloud services, you will have to choose between:
A private Cloud
A public Cloud
A hybrid Cloud
A private cloud contains IT services provided by your internal IT team, but in a manner, you could even get as external service. It is being provided by your datacenter and only hosts services for your company or company group. This means you will have to provide the required SLA.
A public cloud describes IT services provided by a hosting service provider with a guaranteed SLA. The services are being provided by public datacenters and they are not being spun up individually just for you.
A hybrid cloud is a mixture between a public and a private cloud, or in other words “a hybrid cloud is an internet-connected private cloud with services that are being consumed as public cloud services”. Hybrid Cloud deployments can be especially useful if there is a reason not to move a service to a public cloud such as:
Intellectual property needs to be saved on company-owned dedicated services
Highly sensitive data (e.g. health care) is not allowed to be saved on public services
Lack of connectivity could break the public cloud if you are in a region with poor connectivity
Responsibility for Cloud Services
If you decide to go with public cloud services, the question is always how many of your network services are you willing to move to the public cloud?
The general answer should be the more services you can transfer to the cloud, the better your result. However, even the best-laid plans sometimes can be at the mercy of your internet connectivity as well, which can cut you off from these services if not planned for. Additionally, industry regulations have made a 100% cloud footprint difficult for some organizations. The hybrid solution is then the most practical option for the majority of business applications.
Hybrid Cloud Scenarios
These reasons drove the decision by Microsoft to provide Azure to you for your own datacenter in a packaged solution based on the same technology as within Azure. Azure itself has the main concept of working with REST-Endpoints and ARM templates (JSON files with declarative definitions for services). Additionally, Microsoft deemed that this on-premises Azure solution should not provide only IaaS, it should be able to run PaaS, too. Just like the public Azure cloud.
This basically means, that for a service to become available in this new on-prem “Azure Stack”, it must already be generally available (GA) in public Azure.
This solution is called “Azure Stack” and comes on certified hardware only. This makes sure, that you as the customer will get performance, reliability and scalability. That ones you expect from Azure will be with Azure Stack, too.
As of today, the following Hardware OEMs part of this initiative:
The following services are available with Azure Stack today, but as it is an agile product from Microsoft, we will expect MANY interesting updates in the future.
With Azure Stack, Microsoft provides a simple way to spread services between on-premise and in the public cloud. Possible scenarios could be:
Disconnected scenarios (Azure Stack in planes or ships)
Azure Stack as your development environment for Azure
Low latency computing
Hosting Platform for MSPs
And many more
As we all know, IT is hybrid today in most of the industries all over the world. With the combination of Azure Stack and Azure, you will have the chance to fulfill the requirements and set up a unique cloud model for all of your company services.
As you have seen, Azure Stack brings public Azure to your datacenter with the same administration and configuration models you already know from public Azure. There is no need to learn twice. Training costs go down, the standardization gives more flexibility and puts fewer loads on the local IT Admins which gives them time to work on new solutions for better quality. Also, with cloud style licensing things becomes less complex, as things are simply based on a usage model. You could even link your Azure Stack licenses directly to an Azure Subscription.
As hybrid cloud services are the future for the next 10 years or even more, Azure and Azure Stack together can make your IT world the most successful that it ever was in the last 10 years and moving forward.
What does the future hold for Hyper-V and its users? Technology moves fast so should Hyper-V admins be concerned about the future? Well, we don’t have a crystal ball to tell us what the future holds but we do have 3 industry experts and Microsoft MVPs to tell you what to expect. Following our hugely popular panel webinar 3 Emerging Technologies that will Change the Way you use Hyper-V we’ve decided to bring together all of the questions asked during both sessions (we hold 2 separate webinar sessions on the same topic to accommodate our European and American audiences) into one article with some extended answers to address the issue of what’s around the corner for Hyper-V and related technologies.
Let’s get started!
Question 1: Do you think IT Security is going to change as more and more workloads move into the cloud?
Answer: Absolutely! As long as we’re working with connected systems, no matter where they are located, we will always have to worry about security. 1 common misconception though is that just because a workload is housed inside of Microsoft Azure, doesn’t mean that it’s LESS secure. Public cloud platforms have been painstakingly setup from the ground up with the help of security experts in the industry. You’ll find that if best practices are followed, and rules of least access and just-in-time administration are followed, the public cloud is a highly secure platform.
Question 2: Do you see any movement to establish a global “law” of data security/restrictions that are not threatened by local laws (like the patriot act)?
Answer: Until all countries of the world are on the same page, I just don’t see this happening. The US treats data privacy in a very different way than the EU unfortunately. The upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming in may of 2018 is a step in the right direction, but that only applies to the EU and data traversing the boundaries of the EU. It will certainly affect US companies and organizations, but nothing similar in nature is in the works there.
Question 3: In the SMB Space, where a customer may only have a single MS Essentials server and use Office 365, do you feel that this is still something that should move to the cloud?
Answer: I think the answer to that question depends greatly on the customer and the use case. As Didier, Thomas and I discussed in the webinar, the cloud is a tool, and you have to evaluate for each case, whether it makes sense or not to run that workload in the cloud. If for that particular customer, they could benefit from those services living in the cloud with little downside, then it may be a great fit. Again, it has to make sense, technically, fiscally, and operationally, before you can consider doing so.
Question 4: What exactly is a Container?
Answer: While not the same at all, it’s often easiest to see a container as a kind of ultra-stripped down VM. A container holds an ultra-slim OS image (In the case of Nano Server 50-60 MB), any supporting code framework, such as DotNet, and then whatever application you want to run within the container. They are not the same as a VM due to the fact that Windows containers all share the kernel of the underlying host OS. However, if you require further isolation, you can do so with Hyper-V containers, which allows you to run a container within an optimized VM so you can take advantage of Hyper-V’s isolation capabilities.
Question 5: On-Premises Computing is Considered to be a “cloud” now too correct?
Answer: That is correct! In my view, the term cloud doesn’t refer to a particular place, but to the new technologies and software-defined methods that are taking over datacenters today. So you can refer to your infrastructure on-prem as “private cloud”, and anything like Azure or AWS as “Public Cloud”. Then on top of that anything that uses both is referred to as “Hybrid Cloud”.
Question 6: What happens when my client goes to the cloud and they lose their internet service for 2 weeks?
Answer: The cloud, just like any technology solution, has its shortcomings that can be overcome if planned for properly. If you have mission critical service you’d like to host in the cloud, then you’ll want to research ways for the workload to be highly available. That would include a secondary internet connection from a different provider or some way to make that workload accessible from the on-prem location if needed. Regardless of where the workload is, you need to plan for eventualities like this.
Question 7: What Happened to Azure Pack?
Answer: Azure Pack is still around and usable, it will just be replaced by Azure stack at some point. In the meantime, there are integrations available that allow you to manage both solutions from your Azure Stack management utility.
Question 8: What about the cost of Azure Stack? What’s the entry point?
Answer: This is something of a difficult question. Ranges that I’ve heard range from 75k to 250k, depending on the vendor and the load-out. You’ll want to contact your preferred hardware vendor for more information on this question.
Question 9: We’re a hosting company, is it possible to achieve high levels of availability with Azure Stack?
Answer: Just like any technology solution, you can achieve the coveted 4 9s of availability. The question is how much money do you want to spend? You could do so with Azure stack and the correct supporting infrastructure. However, one other thing to keep in mind, your SLA is only as good as your supporting vendors as well. For example, if you sell 4 9s as an SLA, and the internet provider for your datacenter can only provide 99%, then you’ve already broken your SLA, so something to keep in mind there.
Question 10: For Smaller businesses running Azure Stack, should software vendors assume these businesses will look to purchase traditionally on-prem software solutions that are compatible with this? My company’s solution does not completely make sense for the public cloud, but this could bridge the gap.
Answer: I think for most SMBs, Azure Stack will be fiscally out of reach. In Azure Stack you’re really paying for a “Cloud Platform”, and for most SMBs it will make more sense to take advantage of public Azure if those types of features are needed. that said, to answer your question, there are already vendors doing this. Anything that will deploy on public Azure using ARM will also deploy easily on Azure Stack.
Question 11: In Azure Stack, can I use any backup software and backup the VM to remote NAS storage or to AWS?
Answer: At release, there is no support for 3rd party backup solutions in Azure Stack. Right now there is a built-in flat file backup and that is it. I suspect that it will be opened up to third-party vendors at some point in time and it will likely be protected in much the same way as public Azure resources.
Question 12: How would a lot of these [Azure Stack] services be applied to the K-12 education market? There are lots of laws that require data to be stored in the same country. Yet providers often host in a different country.
Answer: If you wanted to leverage a providers Azure stack somewhere, you would likely have to find one that actually hosts it in the geographical region you’re required to operate in. Many hosters will provide written proof of where the workload is hosted for these types of situations.
Question 13: I’m planning to move to public Azure, how many Azure cloud Instances would I need?
Answer: There is no hard set answer for this. It depends on the number of VMs/Applications and whether you run them in Azure as VMs or in Azure’s PaaS fabric. The Azure Pricing Calculator will give you an idea of VM sizes and what services are available.
Watch the webinar
Did you miss the webinar when it first went out? Has this blog post instilled a desire for you to rewatch the session again? Have no fear, we have set up an on-demand version for you to watch right now! Simply click on the link below to go the on-demand webinar page where you can watch a live recording of the webinar free.
If you have a question on the future of Hyper-v or any of the 3 emerging technologies that were discussed in the webinar just post in the comments below and we will get straight back to you. Furthermore, if you asked a question during the webinar that you don’t see here, by all means, let us know in the comments section below and we will be sure to answer it here. Any follow-up questions are also very welcome – to feel free to let us know about that as well!
Q. If you’re new to Azure Stack, what are some good resources for learning more about it (Other than this webinar)
A. If you’re looking to learn more about Azure Stack, it would be best if you start by learning more about Azure. This is because managing Azure Stack is so similar to Azure, learning how to handle Azure, will help you with Azure Stack when you’re ready to deploy it. If you’re looking to focus on individual features, it is recommended that you focus on ARM (Azure Resource Manager) before focusing on other items. With that said, Microsoft has a lot of training materials about Azure and ARM, and even has an online virtual academy with some resources HERE
Q. Microsoft has already talked about scaling the solution up from the existing planned deployments, are there any mentioned plans to scale the solution down?
A. The smallest that Azure Stack scales down too is 4 nodes, with no mentioned plans to go below that. Due to the nature of the solution and what it’s capable of delivering, if 4 nodes is not small enough, it’s recommended to host the workloads directly in Azure instead.
Q. Will it be more resource efficient to host PaaS workloads of IaaS workloads in Azure Stack?
A. While the final numbers and pricing would tell you for sure, at this point it looks like PaaS will be the more efficient route (Like Public Azure). This is because PaaS services are inherently more efficient than IaaS as you’re not having to support an individual underlying OS for each workload.
Q. What are the differences between the different switch types in Azure Stack.
A. The Aggregate switch acts as an aggregation layer for all the different TOP switches to connect to. The TOR Switch is a top-of-rack switch that the physical hosts connect to, and the BMC switch is a switch that is used by the baseboard management controllers in the hosts for things like auto-power-on and power off, and patching.
Q. Can I use Altaro VM Backup to protect workloads running on Azure Stack?
A. At release Microsoft is not opening APIs or providing a way for 3rd party vendors to provide backup services inside of the stack. However, it is suspected (but not confirmed) that they will open a marketplace for MAS, much like they have for Azure. Through this backup vendors could deploy methods for protecting Azure Stack based workloads. We will be watching this closely and will be sure to notify you via the Altaro blog of any major product enhancements centered around this.
Q. Am I able to use an Azure Stack based storage account for hosting offsite backups with Altaro VM Backup?
A. Yes! You can connect to an Azure Stack based storage account just as you would connect to a storage account hosted in public Azure. All you need to do is follow the instructions posted in the offsite backup location section of the application and cut and paste in your connection string for the storage account.
Well that wraps up things for August’s webinar! Be sure to keep an eye out on this space, as we’ll be posting more information about Azure Stack as our authors find it interesting and of use to you!
As always, if there was a question you have that wasn’t answered, or you thought of a follow-up question, be sure to use the comments section below and we’ll be sure to get you your answer ASAP.
Thanks for attending, and we hope to see you for the next one!
On July 18th, we put on a webinar with Aidan Finn regarding Azure IaaS and Hybrid Cloud. The webinar was well attended, and we got some great questions and feedback throughout the session. As is our norm for webinars this post contains the following below:
A recording of the webinar in it’s entirety
A link to the slide deck used
A full list of the questions and their associated answers.
If you have any follow-up questions be sure to use the comments section below and we’ll be sure to get you an answer!
Watch Webinar – 4 Important Azure IaaS Features for Building your Hybrid Cloud
Q: If there is a trackable pending disaster such as a hurricane or a war, will Microsoft proactively move data and workloads to another Azure Datacenter Region?
A: The short answer here is no, that is because Microsoft leaves it up to the customer to design and architect the solutions over several datacenter regions yourself if you need that kind of failover and redundancy. Microsoft will do no syncing of data between datacenters on their own in this regards. You have to set it up yourself.
Q: Is it possible to select managed or un-managed for disks during the creation of a new VM in Azure?
A: It is. In the storage section under step 3 of the VM’s creation you have the option of selecting managed or unmanaged storage.
Q: Is it possible to change from un-managed to managed storage at a later time?
A: Yes! There are a few powershell cmdlets that can do this and the process is fairly quick. More information on this can be found HERE.
Q: Does an MSDN subscription allow you to do some testing with Azure?
A: Yes. You get various credits depending on your subscription level. You can find more information on this HERE
Q: When a host “warm reboots” in Azure, how do the VMs stay online? How do they get resources?
A: The answer here is they don’t stay online, however the downtime is only 15 to 30 seconds, so it’s nearly unidentifiable unless you’re running a very connectivity sensitive application.
Q: How can I keep track of which services are available in what regions?